Posts Tagged ‘poetry’


Friday, April 28th, 2017

April is National Poetry Month, so this month we’re writing poems inspired by our wares. Today’s poem:

You really do, you really do
On my fridge, stick to
The magnetic surface of it;
The shiny, metal surface.
Your magnetic head sticks there like glue.
Sylvie, I have had to buy you.
A puppet on my finger——
A magnet on my ‘frigerator.
Poetess clad in soft green cloth;
Small as a baby’s shoe.
And a head next to the GE logo
Near the rest of my puppet crew.
Yes, I’m a bit of a magnet hoarder.
But that’s better than having too few.
In the kitchen, near the sink and the stove
You watch over the food
I cook, cook, cook.
But you cannot eat any of it
My puppet friend.
Your puppet face looks a bit blue.
Your glare suggests I should eschew
Butter and sugar;
Other foods that are ecru.
Lipids stuck in my veins.
Your hair is a fluffy beige tuft
Held by a band
That matches your dress.
A designer took time styling you:
A mouth that’s not smiling,
Not frowning; not frowning
Outright, but likely you do.
You do frown on my awful poems.
I know that it’s likely you do.
I think it’s OK that you do.

The poor diction, weak syntax, the nonsensical lines
Are not very pure or true.
But your visage on my fridge inspires me
And my poetry and my poetry.
I wish I could write like you do.
I’ve always been in awe of you,
With your red hair and man-eating, too.
And your neat novel
And that Paltrow film that I rue.
Poetess, poetess, O You——
Not You but a puppet toy
Small enough to carry through,
From apartment to apartment all
Of the times that I have moved,
Moved around this urban zoo.
You stick upon my fridge, Sylvie,
So I have no picture of you.
Just a soft, fluffy puppet with no feet
But no less a delight for that, no not
Any less the woman who
Inspired my artwork; still do.
I was ten when I discovered you.
OK, twenty more likely
When I read, read, read of you.
And now this fine puppet will do
To help me recite Lady L——
To recall the words quickly and true.
I thank the UPG crew
That made a model of you,
A gal in green with a sulky look
And a youthful face, unlike a shrew.
You are so pleasant to view.
So Sylvie, I already knew
That I’d probably gift you to friends
When other gifts just won’t do.

If I gifted one, I’ve got two——
This small puppet that looks just like you.
I imagine your strong voice
Coming out of the tiny doll. 
But her lips don’t move at all. 

There’s a magnet in your small head
And you’re lined up in the puppet queue.
And though the others don’t have a clue,
My favorite puppet is you. 
Sylvie, Sylvie, you goddess, I’m through.

Stopping by a Brothel on a Snowy Evening

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

April is National Poetry Month, so this month we’re writing poems inspired by our wares. Today’s poem:

Stopping by a Brothel on a Snowy Evening

Whose ear this is I think I know.
His house in town is bright yellow;
He often wanders inside here
Even on cold nights full of snow.

Everyone in town thinks him queer
His speech is slurred and oft unclear
And when they see the art he makes,
They laugh at how the strokes appear.

He looks so lost it makes me ache
To see someone with such heartbreak
Though now it seems my kindness caused
Him to leave me this strange keepsake.

The package lies there in a heap,
Turns out Van Gogh is a big creep,
I do not think this ear I’ll keep,
I do not think this ear I’ll keep.

Ode to the Lost Art of Penmanship Mug

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

April is National Poetry Month, so this month we’re writing poems about our wares. Today’s poem:

Ode to the Lost Art of Penmanship Mug

O! ceramic chalice ringed with script
Enlined with blue and red
What lost art do you tempt us to decrypt
With utensil encor’d with lead?
For what purpose were you bred? 

O! companioned with paper pad
And pencil bold and true
Blissfully free of trend or fad
The modern age you do eschew.
You confront us with what we once knew. 

O! letters curved, with perfect form
Your arrows guide our hand
With the Zaner-Bloser method thou dost conform
Your instruction is our command
And may our future scribbling be rendered grand. 

O! what shall your stoneware depths enclose?
Coffee, tea, milk, or other?
Nectar, manna or ambros’
Absinthe, wine or broth o’ yak’s butter?
What might quench the thirst of yon script lover? 

The art of penmanship shall ne’er be lost
Immortalized ‘pon yonder grail
This knowledge worth immeasurable cost
Is yours today for $13.95 retail.

National Poetry Month: I Heart Sholom Aleichem

Tuesday, April 4th, 2017

April is National Poetry Month, and we’re celebrating by posting poems inspired by our wares.

Today’s poem:

I Heart Sholom Aleichem

The play “Fiddler on the Roof”
Was based on some fictional stuff
By a writer called Sholom
The whole world should know him
Aleichem, and this poem’s the proof!

– Secret Admirer

Women Authors of the Heian Period

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

March is Women’s History Month, and today we’re going to revel in the writing of Japanese women from the Heian period.

Women have been writers as long as writing has existed, but their work often has been lost or neglected. However, while the literary professions were generally dominated by men, it was women who were the driving force behind the Golden Age of Japanese literature, and their work has come down to us through the centuries.

The Heian period (794-1185) is known for its memoirs, autobiographical narratives, and love poems. The masters of Heian literature were women of the Imperial Court and members of the aristocracy who offer intimate glimpses into the lives of the powerful and the passionate.

The writer known to us as the “Mother of Michitsuna” wrote the Kagerō Diary, the first of the long tradition of diary texts written by women.

Lady Murasaki (the pseudonym of Murasaki Shikibu) wrote The Tale of Genji, often referred to as the first novel. It is remarkable for its philosophical insight into the world of the Japanese court.

Sei Shōnagon’s The Pillow Book fascinated her readers with its behind-the-scenes account of court life. It is noteworthy for its gossipy observations and its exhaustive, eclectic lists.

Izumi Shikibu was one of the greatest Japanese poets, and one of only five women included Fujiwara no Kintō’s anthology, Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry. Her love poetry was so passionate, rumors flew about her robust love life, some of which were true.

Akazome Emon, a contemporary of all three writers above, was a poet and historian much admired by Murasaki Shikibu.

There are several theories about why were women so prominent in Heian literature. In this era of great respect for literature and the arts, families who educated their daughters were more likely to marry them off to men with access to power. While educated men wrote in Classical Chinese, their counterparts were free to write in their own language – the Japanese vernacular that was becoming more and more popular.

Professor Lynne Miyake goes into more detail in this interesting interview.

So let’s remember these remarkable women, whose own talents and industry fitted them for a place and time that recognized their merits and gave beauty and brilliance to their own time and ours.

Why is that so hard again?

Summer Romance: Romantic Poet = Bad Boyfriend

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015

This Summer we’re posting about the Romantic era. Today’s post is about the dating lives of Romantic poets.

If you were dating a Romantic era poet, odds are you had a bad boyfriend.


Novalis (nom de plume of Georg Philipp Friedrich Freiherr von Hartenberch) became engaged to Sophie von Kühn when she was 13 and he was 23. Her early death at age 15 was the source of some great poetry for Novalis. But it’s possible any passion was only felt by him, if her diary entries are any indication:

March 1. Today Hartenberch visited again nothing happened.
March 11. We were alone today and nothing at all happened.
March 12. Today was like yesterday nothing at all happened.
March 13. Today was repentance day and Hartenb. was here.
March 14. Today Hartenber. was still here.


William Wordsworth fell in love with Annette Vallon when he was visiting Revolutionary France. They had a child together, but when Wordsworth ran out of money he returned to England without her. He made arrangements to support the child financially and then married a childhood friend.


Samuel Taylor Coleridge was an unpleasant person, suffering from anxiety and depression, and in terrible physical shape, leading to a crippling opium addiction. He and his friend Robert Southey married a pair of sisters, but Coleridge detested his wife, only marrying her for social purposes.


Lord Byron was described as “mad, bad and dangerous to know” by one of his lovers, and that was probably fairly accurate. Byron loved intensely and often. His first romance was at age 8, when he passionately fell in love with a cousin. Then he passionately fell in love with another cousin. Then he started going after married women. He ended his scandalous relationship with Lady Caroline Lamb, only to be stalked by her. Around this time, Byron had possibly started an incestuous relationship with his half-sister.

By the time Byron reached the point of marrying, he was an expert at treating women poorly. His first marriage, to Anne Isabella Milbanke, a cousin of his stalking lover Caroline Lamb, was rumored to be rife with violence and infidelity. She left him and took their daughter (who went on to become the first computer programmer). Lady Caroline got her revenge through her caricature of Byron in her tell-all novel Glenarvon. Meanwhile, Byron left England and slept his way across Europe.


Percy Bysshe Shelley is considered to be one of the greatest lyric poets, but he certainly wasn’t one of the world’s greatest boyfriends. At age 19, after an unsuccessful romance with a cousin (what is it with these Romantic poets and their cousins?) he decided to “save” a suicidal 16-year-old girl and ran away with her to Scotland. As this marriage disintegrated, Shelley fell for a 28-year-old schoolteacher and a few other women while he was at it. When he met 16-year-old Mary Godwin, this time Shelley was the one to threaten suicide to win someone over. And it worked. Shelley left his pregnant wife and ran off to Switzerland with Mary. Unfortunately there were some real suicides left in the wake: Mary’s half-sister Fanny Imlay killed herself, dismayed that Shelley didn’t run away with her instead, and his pregnant wife was shortly found drowned in Hyde Park. Three weeks later, Percy and Mary were married. No doubt Shelley would have made Mary miserable too, but he died shortly later.


Robert Burns had a child with his mother’s servant while he was having an affair with another woman who became pregnant with second and third children (twins). In the end he married the other woman, who bore him seven more children, but he was also carrying on a relationship with a third woman who he met in church.


John Keats “befriended” a series of ladies, writing to one: “My love has made me selfish.” Yep.

Anglo-Saxon Summer: Riddle Time

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

The “Exeter Book” is an anthology of Anglo-Saxon poetry dating from the 10th century. It is the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon poetry and includes over 90 riddle poems.

Riddle poems are just that: riddles in the form of Anglo-Saxon poetry. The riddle poems in the Exeter Book range from the religious and allegorical to the mundane, and even more mundane. In those years the bar for entertainment was low, and writers were not shy about throwing in sexual innuendo. The answers to these riddles don’t appear in the book – although most of them have been figured out by astute historians – so you can be pretty sure you’re not going to run across any spoilers.

Here are some examples:
(translations by Paull Franklin Baum, courtesy of Wikisource)

My beak is downward     and low I move
and dig in the ground.     The hoar foe of the forest
directs my movements;     and so my master
goes bent over,     the guide at my tail,
drives across the field,     pushes me and crowds me,
and sows in my swath.     I go sniffing along,
brought from the woodland,     stoutly fastened,
borne on a wagon.     I have many strange ways.
I leave green on one side     and black on the other.
Driven through my back     there hangs beneath
a well-sharpened point;     on my head another,
firm and forward-moving.     What I tear with my teeth
falls to the side,     if he serves me well,
my lord who behind me     heeds me and guides me.

Answer: I am a plow.

I saw the wight     going on its way.
It was splendidly,     wonderfully arrayed.
The wonder was on the wave;     water became bone.

Answer: I am ice.

* SAUCY WARNING * Here’s that (not very subtle) innuendo we were talking about:

I’m a wonderful thing,     a joy to women,
to neighbors useful.     I injure no one
who lives in a village     save only my slayer.
I stand up high     and steep over the bed;
underneath I’m shaggy.     Sometimes ventures
a young and handsome     peasant’s daughter,
a maiden proud,     to lay hold on me.
She seizes me, red,     plunders my head,
fixes on me fast,     feels straightway
what meeting me means     when she thus approaches,
a curly-haired woman.     Wet is that eye.

Answer: I am an onion.

Splendidly it hangs     by a man’s thigh,
under the master’s cloak.     In front is a hole.
It is stiff and hard;     it has a goodly place.
When the young man     his own garment
lifts over his knee,     he wishes to visit
with the head of what hangs     the familiar hole
he had often filled     with its equal length.

Answer: I am a key.

I have heard of something     wax in a corner,
swell and pop,     lift up the covers.
A proud-minded woman     seized with her hands
that boneless thing,     a prince’s daughter;
covered with her dress     the swelling thing.

Answer: I am dough.

In honor of Anglo-Saxon summer, we thought it would be nice to write some modern riddle poems using the alliterative scanning of Anglo-Saxon poetry. Here are two of them:

I can be called i    container of cells
You speak softly    and I, soulless, speak
Power up my person   and I powerfully perform
I am your genie guide    and my guidance is global
Your constant comrade    Your closest companion
Silence my sensors    and I still serve.

Answer: I am an iPhone.

Your hands hover over me    I harvest wisdom.
You yearn for answers    I yield to your questioning
But beware:    I bring you astray
Into a foul chasm    of kittens and cranks

Answer: I am Google.

This is what the Anglo-Saxons did for fun in the days before television. Celebrate this great Anglo-Saxon pastime and write your own riddle poems!

Bad Poetry Month – Poems by US Presidents

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

This April on the PhLog, we’re celebrating Bad Poetry Month.

Today’s entry celebrates the poetry and the “poetry” of U.S. Presidents.

From George Washington to Barack Obama, many of our presidents have written poetry. And most of them weren’t very good at it.

Thanks to the Library of Congress, you can read some of these poems online.

All the world may love a lover, but it’s tough to love the love poems of a young George Washington:

From your bright sparkling Eyes, I was undone;
Rays, you have, more transparent than the sun,
Amidst its glory in the rising Day,
None can you equal in your bright array;
Constant in your calm and unspotted Mind;
Equal to all, but will to none Prove kind,
So knowing, seldom one so Young, you’l Find
Ah! woe’s me that I should Love and conceal,
Long have I wish’d, but never dare reveal,
Even though severely Loves Pains I feel;
Xerxes that great, was’t free from Cupids Dart,
And all the greatest Heroes, felt the smart.

Although it’s possible that, like young Washington’s “Rules of Civility,” this not-so-great poem was actually copied by Washington from a (now lost) book. In that case, we are disappointed less in his skills than in his taste.


George Washington: an original leader, not an original poet.

The young James Madison mixed his poetry with his politics in this screed against the Tories:

A poem against the Tories

Of late our muse keen satire drew
And humourous thoughts in vollies flew
Because we took our foes for men
Who might deserve a decent pen
A gross mistake with brutes we fight
And [goblins?] from the realms of night
Where Spring & Craig lay down their heads
Sometimes a goat steps on the pump
Which animates old Warford’s trunk
Sometimes a poisonous toad appears
Which Eckley’s yellows carcuss bears
And then to grace us with a bull
Forsooth they show McOrkles skull
And that the Ass may not escape
He take the poet Laureat’s shape
The screech owl too comes in the train
Which leap’d from Alexander’s brain
Just as he scratch’d his grisly head
Which people say is made of lead.
Come noble whigs, disdain these sons
Of screech owls, monkeys, & baboons
Keep up you[r] minds to humourous themes
And verdant meads & flowing streams
Untill this tribe of dunces find
The baseness of their grovelling mind
And skulk within their dens together
Where each ones stench will kill his brother;


James Madison: Politics trumps Poetry.

As is obvious from this poem, Madison was destined for a life of politics rather than a life of letters. And let’s face it – a phrase like “Come noble whigs, disdain these sons / Of screech owls, monkeys, & baboons” is pretty good politics.

Abraham Lincoln wrote tortured love poetry, doggerel, and even made some attempts at literary poetry. Sure, it’s overblown in that 19th century way, with words like “twixt” and “ling’ring” and “hallowed,” but you get the sense that he spent some time on it and took his writing seriously. Lincoln was a great lover of literature and that love continued throughout his life long after his poetical days were over.

As with most of us, Lincoln’s teenage scribbles are most entertaining. For example, these lines would be right at home in any yearbook today:

Abraham Lincoln is my nam[e]
And with my pen I wrote the same

I wrote in both hast and speed

and left it here for fools to read.


Lincoln: Literary Man.

Jimmy Carter has had a lot of time on his hands since leaving the White House and the book of poems he’s written is the work of a man with empty hours to fill. Harold Bloom called him “literally the worst poet in the United States.” That sounds a little harsh to us, but you can be the judge:

Certainly the NY Times wasn’t a fan.  They even compared the lameness of his verse with the lameness of his leadership. Ouch!

Barack Obama wrote, and even published, some poetry, long before he was running for President.

They’re actually not bad. You get a sense that if he wanted to do that kind of thing he could get pretty good at it. When it’s his turn to have some time on his hands in a few years, maybe that’ll end up being his true calling.


Obama: Future poet?

Bad Poetry Month – Celebrities

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

This National Poetry Month, we’re celebrating the neglected work of bad poets.

This post is a bit of an exception to the neglected part – it features people who have no problem getting their poetry out there: celebrities.

Ah, celebrities. Some of them have talent, but when they overreach into poetry, they almost always fall flat, just as often as when they try to branch out into music.

To make things worse, it’s clear that celebrities, regardless of any writing talent or hard work, are able to get their poetry published merely because they are famous, whereas hundreds of decent and mediocre non-famous poets have a much harder time getting their work out there in the world.

The volume of poetry by TV celebrity Suzanne Somers titled “Touch Me” is a legendary celebrity poetry flop. Reviews on Amazon testify to how much people continue to enjoy making fun of it to this day.

Jimmy Stewart’s poetry is just what you’d expect from the man. Playful, straightforward, simple, and just awful. Here’s an example from his poem “The Aberdares!”:

The North Pole’s rather chilly.
Those who’ve been there all will tell
There’s lots of snow and lots of ice
And lots of wind as well.

An iceberg’s really never warm
And takes a while to melt.
A snowball’s not the hottest thing
That I have ever felt.

Here’s a video of him reading a poem about his dog. On national television. What non-celebrities-turned-poets-poets get a crack at that? It’s enough to make a man tear up.

Actress Ally Sheedy was widely lampooned for her post-recovery book of poems “Yesterday I Saw the Sun” back in 1991. Poor Sheedy had a lot going against her. Her career was on the wane when she published this book, its self-indulgent examination of her personal problems was just asking for a backlash, and the fact that Sheedy’s mother was a high-powered literary agent who represented her and helped get the book published pegged it as a vanity project, even more than your standard celebrity-using-his-or-her-celebrity-to-get-a-book-published.

Leonard Nimoy has written not one, but SEVEN volumes of poetry, with titles such as “We Are All Children Searching For Love,” “Come be With Me,” and “Warmed by Love.” They are certainly earnest and, as the titles suggest, warm-hearted. That doesn’t mean that they are great.

Here’s video of him reciting his poem “A Tree of Us”:

More recently, celebrity James Franco has done his best to appear “deep” by writing poetry. As part of his massive PR push to be seen as an artist and intellectual, it’s only natural that poetry is on his checklist. And, being James Franco, it’s only natural that his poems are bad. Here’s a sample of some of them:

Franco on Obama

Franco on LA

Franco on turning 35

This is just the tip of the iceberg of course (and that is never really warm). Recent years have also brought us the poetry of Britney Spears, Pamela Anderson, Sean Penn, Jewel, Kristen Stewart, Jennifer Aniston, Charlie Sheen, Kate Moss, Rosie O’Donnell… and that’s just a small selection. We guess writing a few poems is easier for these guys than writing a novel. Because poetry is easy, right? It certainly is the way celebrities do it.

Bad Poetry Month – Fitz-Greene Halleck

Monday, April 7th, 2014

Today’s entry is dedicated to a once-famous poet whose work has not stood the test of time: Fitz-Greene Halleck (1790-1867).

Halleck, called the “American Byron,” was immensely popular in his day and was known for his wit and charm. He was perhaps more famous for being famous than he was for his actual poetry. He hobnobbed with the famous people of his day, and was personal secretary to John Jacob Astor.


Yes even in his time, praise wasn’t universal for Halleck’s poetry. His most popular poem “Fanny” is a masterpiece of missed rhymes: “eyes” with “price,” “table” with “Babel,” and many, many more. Edgar Allen Poe wrote about “Fanny,” that “to uncultivated ears… [it is] endurable, but to the practiced versifier it is little less than torture.”

But Halleck had friends and admirers in high places. In 1877, ten years after his death (his last words by the way, were the poetical “Marie, hand me my pantaloons, if you please”), Halleck became the only American writer to be commemorated with a statue in Central Park’s Literary Walk. He sits there today in the company of the likes of Robert Burns and William Shakespeare. President Rutherford B. Hayes dedicated the statue, and his entire cabinet was in attendance, along with as many as 10,000 other people. Two legacies of that event: gatherings of that size were outlawed in Central Park, and requirements for determining the subjects of statues became more stringent.


In the end, one could argue that Fitz-Green Halleck’s work isn’t really that terrible. And that may be true. So instead, let’s celebrate his mediocrity and the knowledge that worldly fame is no substitute for lasting work, or else worldly fame is great until you’re dead and then it’s somebody else’s problem.